Former football coach Mendel dies

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large

Friday, October 07, 2011

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ANOTHER chapter in Jamaica's football history closed earlier this week with the sudden death of football coach, administrator and business executive Mark Mendel.

Mendel, who was in his 60s, died of a heart attack on Sunday, October 2, his wife of several years, Leonie, said.

The Romanian-born Mendel, who also held Israeli and Jamaican citizenship, was responsible for reshaping local football between the 1980s and the 1990s, when he introduced the first professional football team to the island, Swallowfield Football Club, which later gave rise to several other semi-professional outfits islandwide.

Tel Aviv University graduate Mendel, who served as a captain in the Israeli army before moving to Jamaica to start busines here, established Swallowfield in the 1980s and built a large contingent of players who were all put on a payroll and given salaries and allowances consistently.

The move heightened interest in the club, which attracted some of the better known players in the Corporate Area at the time, and ushered in a new era for footballers that was only heard of before.

However, he made enemies along the way, as several of those in the football establishment became jealous of his efforts and some even urged the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) administration at the time to investigate his practices with a view to getting him out of local football.

"If we want football in Jamaica to reach very far, we need to go professional," Mendel told this writer at the height of his stint at Swallowfield.

"Players need to be well looked after so that they can perform at their best," he said.

Among the prominent players at the time who were contracted to Swallowfield were Richard 'Potcover' McDonald, a sturdy striker from Jamaica College who represented the Jamaica youth team at the time; Andrew 'Feathermop' Bailey, originally from St Ann, who played for Jamaica; Richard Coke, who also played for Harbour View; Dominique Spaulding, a top line defender; Wayne Palmer, one of the skilful midfielders of the era; and Craig Butler, now in Austria.

Mendel was also instrumental in getting Jamaica footballers, including Paul "Tegat" Davis, the striker who spent most of his years at Seba United, and the late Peter Cargill, to play professionally in the Israeli first division.

After leaving Swallowfield, Mendel was lured to Tivoli Gardens by his good friend, former prime minister Edward Seaga, the current president of the Premier League Clubs Association, which he coached to Major League and Jackie Bell Knockout titles in 1993. After an absence of a few years from the National Premier League, Tivoli made it back into top flight football due largely to Mendel's strategies.

He gave up that job afterwards, but returned toward the end of the 2003 season after the club and then coach Geoffrey Maxwell parted company.

During the 1990s, Mendel assisted Brazilian coach Rene Simoes, who was technical director of the JFF. Mendel was a part of the Under-23 coaching staff.

Over the last three years Mendel spent time in Europe where he was in the process of recruiting Jamaica-based players for leagues there.

His funeral is set for Wednesday, October 12 at the Jewish Synagogue in Kingston.

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